Great question, with a long waffly answer! When your air plant is in the right place it will live for many years. Indeed, by the time it gets to you it is more than likely a couple of years old. We regularly have anecdotal evidence of customer’s air plants living 20 or 30 years. Personal experience of them living for over 15 years. (And a bit of experience of them lasting less than that!) With good care and regular watering your plants should live a long and happy life.
Like all plants, air plants need access to water. In their native habitat, Tillandsia take in water from rainfall, atmospheric moisture, coastal fog etc. Air plants in the home need a little help, as most homes don’t have the required humidity and certainly lack the rainfall and coastal fog! Tillandsia can be watered either by misting or soaking them. For most species a light misting a couple of times a week or a fortnightly soak is plenty. Our Air Plant Care page gives more detail.
Rainwater is always best for air plants, and a number of other houseplants. Tap Water is ‘fine’, especially if you live in an area of Soft Water, they are not so keen on Hard Water, and the lime and calcium deposits start to block up the tiny pores in the leaves, essential for the plants to be able to take up water. So even though you are diligently watering your plant, it is not able to access the water. Using cooled, boiled water or bottled water (for posh air plants) is one way round this. Never use tap water if you have a water softener installed.
Air plants may be fixed to anything that doesn’t mind getting a light misting of water, wood and shells are great. However, they are just as happy to grow on their own, left on a shelf, hanging somewhere or resting in some other suitable container.
Patience is a virtue, and you will certainly need to be patient if you are raising air plants from seed, as this can take up to 8 years! By far the easiest way to by ‘offsets’ or ‘Pups’. Once and air plant has flowered you may notice a small plant, or even plants, forming at the base. These continue to grow, attached to the mother, and may be safely removed when they are about one third, to half the size of the parent plant. Alternatively leave them in place to form an attractive clump, as they would in their natural environment.